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UK law firms declare ambitious net zero commitments

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By The Net Zero Now Team on

Competition announced for law firm employees to win chance to build sustainability skills with top training course

Leading UK law firms have signed up to a new industry initiative that aims to accelerate the legal profession’s journey to net zero. The firms — including Mills & Reeve, Hill Dickinson, Cripps and Mishcon de Reya — have set ambitious targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 30% over the next five years to help fight the global climate crisis.

The legal sector is estimated to be responsible for over 2% of greenhouse gas emissions from business sector in the UK, at around 1.3 million tonnes of emissions every year. The UK Government has set a target for the whole economy to be Net Zero by 2050. The Net Zero Law Initiative, curated by Net Zero Now, the carbon accounting and climate action platform, in collaboration with the sector, is based on a Law sector-specific roadmap to Net Zero developed during 2023 with input from academics, climate experts and a pilot group of sector leaders as well as Greener Litigation and The Law Society.

The law firms participating in the Net Zero Law Initiative will measure and report on their emissions using Net Zero Now’s platform, and evidence their own performance in reducing their emissions versus government benchmark figures. The Initiative helps law firms measure and reduce their emissions using tailored reduction plans – enabling them to unlock multiple business benefits including reduced costs, increased client engagement and motivated staff. It is aligned with the latest global climate science, including the SBTi, and the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. Net Zero Now calculates that if all UK law firms signed up to the initiative, the emissions of the legal profession could be reduced by as much as 400,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions over five years.

The eight law firms between them employ 4400 people and generate £575 million of revenue and include two firms in the top 50 and a further three in the top 100 UK law firms. They are: Aardvark Planning; Cartridges Law; Cripps; Fenwick Elliott; Hill Dickinson;  Mills & Reeve; Mishcon de Reya and MSB Solicitors.

Find out more about the Net Zero Law Initiative

All these firms worked with Net Zero Now to undertake a full calculation of their greenhouse gas emissions — the vital first step in enabling action to reduce them.

To deliver on their commitments of reducing their emissions by 30% over five years, many of the firms are already taking affirmative action, including exploring energy efficiency, purchasing renewable energy and changing employee commuting methods. Mills & Reeve are researching on-site energy generation and researching virtual hearings while exploring how to encourage their suppliers to consider their own environmental impact.

As the economy continues its transition to net zero, sustainability skills are becoming increasingly in demand in all businesses. To mark the successful growth of the Net Zero Law Initiative, Net Zero Now have today announced a competition for individuals within law firms who want to develop their sustainability knowledge to win a seat on a short course covering Sustainability Essentials for business, run by the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership. You can enter the competition here.

David Rothera, head of business development at Net Zero Now, said:

“Law firms have a huge influence on the way we do business in the UK, advising senior leaders and influencing critical business decisions. By showing that they take the transition to a more planet-positive future seriously, these law firms are leading the way for the entire sector, and our wider economy, to take action. Net Zero Now exists to fight the climate crisis and boost business success — our experience across multiple sectors shows the two go hand in hand.  Law firms that join this important Initiative can help attract and retain staff, reduce costs and meet the increasing demand for clients for law firms who are aligned with their own climate commitments.”

Find out more about the Net Zero Law Initiative

Jessica Wilkes-Ball, senior sustainability manager at Mills & Reeve said:

“The Net Zero Law Initiative is a masterclass in collaboration! By being early adopters, we were given the opportunity to suggest positive amendments which will support and enhance personalised emissions reporting and a tailored reductions plan, and provide a universal pathway for all law firms to start their net zero journey. Collaboration not competition is the only way in which we’ll achieve our collective goals of reaching net zero.”

Joanna Ford, Partner at Cripps, said:

“The wide lens of environmental and social sustainability is integral to the future of the legal sector as we learn to adapt to our clients’ needs and upskill our profession to find legal solutions to these important issues. The Initiative has helped us understand our carbon emissions and the areas we can and need to focus on to enable further reduction.  We are now working on embedding measurable and targeted actions to meet an ambitious yet achievable date to become a fully Net Zero business. We would encourage other businesses to get on board. It is easier for legal firms than you might think, and provides lots of food for thought and ideas to become more sustainable.”

Jessica Jones, trainee solicitor, MSB said:

“A big thank you to Net Zero Now for working with us on this pilot. MSB is a progressive modern law firm. Once a high street solicitors, we’re now a regional law firm with a strong North West presence and a commitment to ESG. We acknowledge our responsibility to the community, and how we impact the environment. We’re committed to leading the way in sustainable practice. This is just the start!”

Hill Dickinson COO Tas Quayum said:

“Like all businesses committed to making our business more sustainable, we are all too aware that the journey is long and that understanding our own impact is a vital first step. By signing up to the Net Zero Law Initiative, we will share best practice and help make the legal sector publicly accountable for its actions and efforts in this regard. In the past 12 months, we have set up an ESG Board and dedicated working groups to lead the charge within Hill Dickinson. We have also published our Carbon Reduction Plan, outlining the initiatives we will deliver on and are already progressing.”

Jasmine Henricson, sustainability manager at Mishcon de Reya, commented:

“Participating in the Net Zero Law Initiative marks a significant step in Mishcon de Reya’s commitment to decarbonisation and the development of a robust carbon reduction plan to achieve Net Zero emissions. Our objectives include enhancing our sustainability impact, elevating reporting standards, and fostering collaboration to drive innovation across the legal sector and we have already transitioned to 100% renewable energy in our London offices and integrated nature-based carbon capture to address unavoidable emissions. We look forward to working collaboratively across the legal sector to create a greener, more sustainable world.”

Find out more about the Net Zero Law Initiative

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